Tuesday 3 November 2015

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

Let's talk about sex, baby
Let's talk about you and me
Let's talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let's talk about sex
~ Salt’N’Pepa

I was, if I am not mistaken, eleven years old when I first discovered sex.

No, I do not mean I got laid at eleven, so you can put your eyeballs back in their sockets. No, this is what I meant:

I was eleven years old when I first found out what men and women did with each other so babies were made.

OK, I was not exactly that innocent. It wasn’t as though I didn’t know that babies came out of a woman’s belly and that the male parent had something to do with it. But the mechanics had been pretty much a mystery to me.

I think I shall have to take a step back and begin at the beginning.

My parents, it will not be a surprise to anyone to learn, never ever mentioned the word “sex” to me. Nor did they ever actually come out and admit the fact that I grew out of an embryo inside my mother’s belly – though, being a Caesarean, I allegedly nearly killed her (my father had to donate blood to her! Horrors!) and it was one of her recurrent grouses in later years, until I was in my teens, that she was still feeling the pain of giving birth to me.  

Of course, as I may have mentioned earlier here and there, neither of my parents had much to do with bringing me up. That was left to my paternal grandmother, whom I called “mother” until the age of three or four when she taught me different. My grandmother, a noted liberal for her day – she was born in 1907 – had not as much compunction about telling me about things as my parents did. The first time I asked her about where I’d come from – I must have been four or younger at this time; it is one of my earliest memories – I remember that she replied that my grandfather had “prayed to god” and I’d come floating down from heaven on a lotus flower. [My grandfather died when I was four, and he was alive at this time, which is how I know my age when I asked this.] By that time I had independently heard that my birth had had something to do with a hospital, so I had to somehow reconcile the flower story and the hospital story. I don’t think I ever did.

Some years later, my grandmother gave me a more detailed account of how a child came into the world; it grew, I learnt, inside the mother and later emerged. How did it emerge? I didn’t at that time think to ask, though somehow or other I took it for granted that it would be through the navel. I mean, it made sense, didn’t it? The navel was right there, in the middle of the belly!

No, actually I was not totally ignorant of the fact that males and females had different genitalia. I grew up with a cousin – whom I’ll call Miri – who was born exactly, to the day, a month before me. As kids, we saw each other naked all the time, and when I was visiting my maternal uncle, his kids and I also played naked in the heat of the summer day. So I knew that girls were different from me between the legs. I just didn’t know what it meant.

I remember one time when my maternal cousin and I were playing with their neighbour’s daughter. We were all naked – all of us were maybe five years old, so this was hardly something scandalous – and the girl (whom I remember to have been very pretty, even then, with a lovely little triangular face) told us solemnly that the previous night she’d woken up and seen her mum pulling her dad by the penis. All of us had a good laugh at the idea. Only many years later did I understand that she must have actually seen them having sex.

At that time, of course, I had no notion of what on earth “sex” was, anyway.

So, back to the navel. I once, probably around the age of eight or so, asked a family friend, all unwitting, if unmarried women never had children; I’d noticed that only married women seemed to be mothers. He blushed bright red and muttered something like “No, no, it only happens when you marry.” I then – curiosity totally unquenched – asked further if the baby did come out of the navel. He nodded vigorously and if I recall took the first opportunity to leave the room.

My grandmother had overheard this conversation, and she later drew me aside and informed me that the baby actually entered the world via the mother’s vagina, and that was how she’d had all her (eleven!) children. Only she didn’t say “vagina” – I did not know the organ existed – but used a child’s word that included both the male and female genitals. The English equivalent might be the “hoo-ha”. I was flabbergasted at this, because by then I’d long since got past the stage when I was still permitted to run around in the nude. By then I’d been taught that the genitals were shameful and had to be covered up. So I stared at my grandmother and asked her, “Weren’t you ashamed that the doctors and nurses were looking at your hoo-ha?”

“I was in so much pain,” she replied drily, “that I couldn’t spare any thought about who was looking at what.” And that was how I learnt that the birthing process was painful.

During all this time, of course, my parents – my actual, biological parents – had never once mentioned a word about how children were born to me.

No, we had no sex education at school. As far as I know, there is still no sex ed at school. And as long as the Hindunazis and other antediluvian morons rule over us, there still will not be any sex ed at school. After all, a couple of years ago yet another government commission decided that sex education was “unnecessary” because “sex comes naturally and does not have to be taught.”

Really. They think sex education is about teaching children how to have sex. I am not making this up.

I will return to that point in a bit.

Naturally, just because there was no sex education at school didn’t mean that kids didn’t pick up things from outside, and by the time I was ten I began to hear giggly whispers in the classroom corners about “fucking”. I didn’t know what it meant. I assumed, from the little I picked up, that it meant “marriage”. So one time I made a fool of myself by replying, in front of the whole class, to a question about what I thought two characters in a story might do at the end: “I think they’ll fuck.”

I brought the house down, and I didn’t even know why.  

Later on, I heard some muttering that led me to think that someone was actually saying that the man put his hoo-ha inside the woman’s hoo-ha. Of course, I rejected the idea at once. It didn’t even bear thinking about. Such a ludicrous thing could never happen. How could anyone ever come up with it? So when a biology textbook coyly suggested that “fertilisation happens when the male sperm swims to the female’s egg and fuses with it” I envisioned the sperm crawling out of the man’s body, wriggling over the bedsheets, and then worming its way inside the woman. That was far more believable than one hoo-ha being put inside another.

And then I was eleven years old, and one rainy Sunday – which is etched clearly in my memory – I was going through the bottom shelf of a cupboard full of books. The top shelves were for the books everyone read – I was already, it will be no surprise to learn, a voracious reader at eleven – while the bottom shelf gathered all the detritus: old textbooks, Reader’s Digests, and the like. I was going through them looking for something interesting – I’d found a book of fairy stories there, and another on dairy farming, on earlier occasions – when I came across one with no cover on it, and no title page. It was bound in plain white paper front and back.

Curiosity aroused, I opened it at random, and – I promise you this – this is the first sentence my eyes fell on: “...after the natural insertion act of the penis.”

It was a sex manual. I think it was my father’s, though it might have been an uncle’s as well. I never knew whose it was. Not that it mattered. What mattered is that it was a bloody sex manual.

It was an extremely badly written sex manual. I think it was called the Koka Shastra. I don’t know who wrote it or why anyone would write such utter bilge. Sperm, for instance, were described as “small worms”. Men and women belonged to four different types each dependent on the lengths of their penises and the depths of their vaginas, and it was only when the matched pairs got together that they could be happy in their relationship; I recall three of the men being “rabbit, deer, horse” while the only woman type I recall was known as “she-elephant”. These were illustrated with coy line drawings of men and women chastely embracing each other. The men were all mostly dressed, the women at least had their breasts and pudenda modestly covered. There was not, in the whole entire book, a diagram of the human genitalia. And this was supposed to be a sex manual.

The whole book, in fact, was written for the male only. It was assumed that the reader would be a male. He was told how to seduce the woman, who was a naturally frigid creature who had to be warmed to want sex. The book specifically warned against sex with “very much laughing girl” and for some reason “woman with green eyes.” Don’t ask me why. Maybe laughter or green eyes meant lust?

This is part of the scintillating prose that is, after all these years, indelibly stamped in my memory:

“The man should lie the woman on the bed and tell her sex talk and coitus tales. By this the woman’s desire can be raised to some extent. Then the man can request the woman to remove cloth. First naked your male organ and press woman’s bust hardly but not so cruelly. Signs of woman’s desire: The woman will begin breathing fast, her eyes will become red and sweets will come out of hair veins. The woman will then become shameless, spread her limbs and let the man to do anything with her body as he wishes.”

Deathless erotica. Deathless, I tell you!

There was a little bit about pregnancy, including the information that the growing foetus caused pressure on the bladder that made the woman urinate more frequently, an interesting bit of trivia I hadn’t known. There was of course not a word about sexually transmitted disease, though there was some confusing and confused material about condoms...including one “which fits over the head of the penis only but I find not safe.” The only sex position described, of course, was missionary. Heaven forbid that the woman get on top, because that would need her to take the initiative instead of being led by the hand, after all!

In one way, though, I am still profoundly grateful for this utter and undiluted tripe; it was, however ridiculous, at least information; unlike the gurgle of rumour and innuendo which filled the classroom. At least I had some facts to work with – while they had none.

In after years I came to realise just how lucky I’d been; I had, and have, no sexual hang-ups, from genital size to belief in any myths about virginity. I later discovered highly educated men who were so crammed to the brim with misinformation about sex that they could barely be called functioning sexual beings. I mean, they could breed and all that, but in that they were little better than sperm donors. I doubt they ever gave their partners an orgasm except by accident.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that they would have regarded their wives having an orgasm with deep suspicion. “Where did you ever learn to have pleasure in sex?” would be the idea floating above their heads. “How dare you have pleasure? With whom will you go looking for it if I don’t give it to you?”

This was all, of course, before the mental meltdown of my late teens, a phase marked by obesity, deep depression, acute loneliness, and death thoughts which culminated in three suicide attempts in five days; even if I’d had access to female company, and being in an all-male educational institution run by Catholic monks I didn’t, I had rather more important things on my mind than girls. The question of just how I would kill myself, and when, for instance. It wasn’t until a few years later that my attention returned to the female gender, and that was when a certain young woman in an evening class took me home, took me to bed, and then informed me – after rubbing herself off to a couple of orgasms on my body – that she didn’t want sex. That, again, pretty much killed off my sexuality for a while.

But that’s enough about me.

During the course of this narrative, I’m sure, the reader will have noticed that I have repeatedly said that my parents never mentioned sex to me. I think the only time my father even skirted the topic was once when I asked him, and this was before I found the book, how a woman knew she was pregnant. He replied, without even looking at me, that “when she thinks she’s pregnant, she goes to a doctor and has tests done.”

Was this an answer?

This reticence wasn’t, and isn’t to this day, unusual among Indian parents. Quite the reverse. Among all my friends, acquaintances, and lovers, I have only known one person who told her daughter about sex. And she later met another young woman who...at the age of 23...did not even know she had a vagina.

Not joking.

This, you understand, is in a country with appalling levels of overpopulation, with cities whose infrastructure is falling apart at the seams, with a still unacceptable rate of maternal mortality, where women of all but the upper classes still have virtually no control over what to do with their bodies. This is a country where men still don’t even know that you can get diseases from sex, or, if they do know, they think it can be cured by such expedients as deflowering a virgin. Brothels even have virgins laid on for customers willing to pay for this kind of privilege. (I will refrain from pointing out the college students in the West who similarly auction their virginities to pay for college tuitions.) This is a country where 53% of the children are sexually molested to some extent or other at some point – more than half – yet they are never told about sex, let along what touch is “inappropriate”; and they don’t even know they can be sexually exploited until they already have been.

I recall some years ago, after the figures about child molestation rates came out, there was a debate in the execrable tabloid known as the Telegraph of Calcutta (an even more right wing excuse for journalism than the British Telegraph). The topic was whether children should be warned about sexual exploitation to save them from it. The instant response from parents was “No, it will spoil their innocence.” It would be laughable if one didn’t know that a substantial proportion of the sexual exploiters of those kids...were their own parents.

And this is the country whose government claims sex education is not necessary because “sex is natural and does not have to be taught.”

In fact, yes, it does have to be taught. Prakash Kothari is India’s most well known sexologist, who had pioneered the field when it was almost taboo. He has recounted several pathetic and hilarious cases. For example, once, a woman brought her daughter and her son-in-law in for an examination, since the younger woman had not become pregnant even after a few years of marriage. Kothari speedily discovered that the couple had never had sex. The man, when asked about it, however, angrily denied that they hadn’t done it. “We have sex every night,” he said.

“How do you do it?” Kothari asked.

“Why,” the man said, “I embrace her and go to sleep, of course.”

Kothari calls India the Land of the Unconsummated Marriage. Of course, a lot of them are also “lavender marriages”, where gay men get married to try and pretend, even to themselves, that they aren’t gay. Not surprisingly, they can’t exactly rouse themselves to passion with a female partner. And then they both suffer in silence, unless they have the courage – as an increasing number do – to file for annulment or divorce.

It wasn’t always like this, of course. Go back a couple of thousand years, when the Kama Sutra was being written, and Indian society was open about matters sexual. Women routinely went topless, men didn’t wear that much in the way of clothes either, and sex education was imparted in the most direct way. Young men went to temple courtesans to be initiated into sex. Young women grew up together, and it was expected that they would experiment with each other, and of course they did. Even the artwork of the time made no bones of that. The most popular Hindu deity of the period, Krishna, was a hypersexed multiple seducer who had a huge harem of concubines, and whose most torrid relationship, described as sacred, was with a woman who was very much not his wife.

You could not say Indian society, whatever other faults it had, was shy about intercourse.

What happened?

The Muslims came, with their Puritan ethic. They stayed, mellowed a bit, but never fully. They were the rulers, and they imposed their cultural Puritanism. However, it didn’t totally destroy Indian sexuality. That was left up to the British. The Victorians, you know.

Today, Indian laws, including sexual laws, are almost all still based on British edicts passed a hundred and fifty years ago. That’s why (male) homosexuality is still illegal in this country; lesbian relations aren’t because Indian women, being pure, are supposed not to have any sexual desire anyway.

Just how ludicrous the whole situation is can be seen by the simple fact that actual Indian society isn’t sexually isolated at all. In fact, ever since the 1990s, India’s been going through a quiet sexual revolution. Even before the days of the net, porn was freely available in back alley bookstalls, and contraceptives can be bought over the counter at any pharmacy. It’s a totally different thing that since there’s no sex education half the people don’t even know what the hell contraceptives are and wouldn’t know how to use them anyway.

Today, airport bookstalls have highly detailed sex manuals of an infinitely superior standard to the awful Koka Shastra, sold perfectly openly, right next to shelves with children’s comics, and, as a certain actress said a few years ago, “No educated man should expect his wife to be a virgin.” In fact, there are hardly any virgins among educated young people any longer. I don’t know of any among my, admittedly limited, acquaintance. But having sex and having safe sex are different things altogether, and how many of them do the latter I wouldn’t venture to guess. Especially since they have to mostly do it surreptitiously, hiding the fact from their parents that they are sexual beings.

That's probably why most towns have ads promoting quacks who promise remedies for all sexual ailments, come to that.

Yes, I believe parents have a duty to tell their kids about sex. No, I do not believe they will do so. And nowadays, with the internet, they imagine there is no need for them to do it, since it’s all available online anyway.

Literotica as a sex education manual. That’s going to work so well, right?

I’m, of course, not a breeder, and never will be one. But if I were, I’d definitely tell my kids all about it.

That is one thing I could do for them.

[Image Source]


  1. Fascinating! There's so much I could say in response to this, Bill, but I think it's enough that you know I hear the frustration, and the incredulity, and the anger at a system that does so much damage to so many in a time when knowledge is more than ever needed on the subject.

  2. Why is it that some humans revel in their ignorance? Especially in Texas. Their education is abstinence. Entirely.

    1. When I was in high school in a small town in Texas, we had to watch a sex education video. A boyfriend and girlfriend were together, then she was crying about something (we were NOT shown just what) and after that, she was feeling ill and went to her physician who told her she'd gotten an STD. Back then, all the known STDs could be cured with antibiotics, so the advice was, if you ever did what that couple had done that caused the girl to cry, go see a good physician. (We were all old enough to have a pretty good idea of what, exactly, that couple had done, even though they were sitting together, fully clothed, in a car, and then there was an indication that some time had passed, and they were sitting together, fully clothed, in the same car, but the girl was crying about something.)

      Boys and girls had to watch separately, of course. And no one asked any questions when the presenter (not a regular teacher at our school, but someone from the state government who went from school to school showing the film) asked us if we had any.


    2. Here the technique is simply to pretend sex does not exist.

  3. Very well described, its relates a lot to our society and tell us how Indian parents are.

  4. Bill, Funny, but I also vividly remember asking my parents (aged 8) how babies knew to wait to come until after you were married and I received no answer! After they died, I learned that I was most definitely conceived before they got married.

  5. In school, I studied geography (or, as the teacher in The Wee Free Men wrote it, Jograffy!) and I learned all about India. We knew that India is mostly Hindus, who are strictly non-violent vegetarians who never hurt or kill anyone or anything.

    When I left school, I knew just about everything about everything because I'd studied hard and learned what my teachers taught me.

    Now I don't know anything about anything.


    1. That is really very funny about Hindus :D Your teachers should read my articles on the Hindunazis.


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